My 1960 Sonata #2 in D Minor, more notes as to making it playable

I want to make some remarks about progress with my Piano Sonata #2 in D Minor, composed in the early part of 1960 when I was a junior in high school and submitted by the “Arlington Junior Music Club”. I believe I wrote a lot of the manuscript out in black ink on snow days in March 1960 (the “three white Wednesdays), seated at a kitchen table, where I also handwrote term papers.

The work, described in an earlier posting here Jan. 27, 2016,  mixes some perfunctory “neoclassicism” with “storm and stress” and violent outburst and then triumph near the end.  It would run about 28 minutes (taking first movement repeat). The style is a simplification of the “rhetoric” in D Minor piano concertos by Brahms, Rachmaninoff, and especially Anton Rubenstein (#4), as well as the C# Minor piano concerto by Amy Beach (which really needs to be played a lot more). And I think there is a little influence even from the Beethoven Piano Sonata #17 in D Minor, the “Tempest” (probably invoking Shakespeare’s play).

.I think the work would be a cloud pleaser with a virtuoso pianist who likes “romantic style”. Very little new music (really zero) in this genre get commissioned these days.  There is a sense of balance and gathering momentum and striving toward big climaxes.

But a lot of the harmonic mannerisms sound trite to me today, in spots.  In the first movement, toward the end of the Development, starting on p. 5, there is a lot of repetitious virtuoso rhetoric centered on the dominant A Major, which could make the listener feel that piece is supposed to be centered around the tonality of A rather than D.  The same buildup occurs in the introduction to the Finale, on p. 17, and then one more time (‘Nsync indeed – imagine Justin Timberlake as the concert pianist) on p. 23, as after the final presentation of the main toccata theme and the sonata prepares for the return of the second theme as a Rachmaninoff-style “big tune” in D Major.

There is also an issue with the toccata theme that opens the Rondo, in that the first stanza migrates to dominant A Minor quickly and stays there too long.

I sketched out some proposed revisions in Sibelius.

File Son2Ch1 suggests a richer harmonization that could apply around line 3 of p. 5 and similar places on pages 17 and 23.  The experimentation could be extended.

File Son2Ch2 suggests a treatment of the toccata theme that opens the Finale by varying away from the respondent dominant A minor to other tonalities (p. 18 with a dal segno, and then p. 22).

Son2CngIntro suggests some more harmonic flavor for the opening four measures of Adagio for the first movement.

Son2ChgCodas suggests ways to make the passage work more harmonically varied as the final climaxes at the end of the first movement and finale approach.

In general, the use of higher interval dissonant chords based on the subdominant is more effective in preparing a final pedal point, and is overuse of the dominant.  Look at the great climaxes in Bruckner, or at the end of Scriabin’s Divine Poem.

I do have the original handwritten 1960 manuscript, which could be copied and pasted over manually.  I do have the PDF online (see Jam 27, 2016 posting) and physical copies.

(Posted: Tuesday, March 21, 2017 at 11:45 PM EDT)

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